Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie has welcomed a £200 million government investment to help further education colleges with capital projects.

The funding, which has also been welcomed by South Gloucestershire and Stroud College principal Sara-Jane Watkins, comes after ministers fast tracked the money for colleges this year from its previously announced £1.5 billion FE capital five-year budget.

This cash and further future funding will allow colleges to improve buildings and their estate.

“The government is investing heavily in schools and FE colleges and I welcome this money coming through because it’s needed to help the country move out from the pandemic and also meet the national demand for skills as we become an independent trading nation again,” Ms Baillie said.

“Vocational education is now front and centre of this new reality and I am heartened the government is recognising FE colleges have a vital role to play in educating our young people, plus adults returning to education, to equip them with the skills they will need for industries such as digital and renewable energy.”

Principal of SGS College Sara-Jane Watkins added: “SGS College really welcomes the news that the government will fast track investment to assist colleges with their capital developments.

“Colleges will be the engine room of this nation, delivering a skilled workforce that will equip this country to bounce back after the pandemic in a post-Brexit economy.

“Millions of young people, and adults, study at colleges throughout this country and it is important that they represent the state-of-the-art industries that this country has and which will flourish as a result of the training delivered by the further education college sector.”

Stroud's MP has also announced the relaunch of her weekly Further Education Friday (FEF) campaign after calling a halt during the Covid-19 lockdown.

FEF is designed to promote skills to aid the lockdown recovery, keep up pressure for more funding, show off the brilliant work of students at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College and help rebalance education away from an obsession with university towards a promotion of vocational courses.

“I have spent years campaigning for more funding and recognition for further education,” Ms Baillie said. “The talent of students at SGS college has certainly kept me motivated, so I am looking forward to working with the college each Friday to show off what they do.”

She added: “It is also vital people know what their education and retraining options - including adult learning - are so they can take every opportunity to thrive. This is even more important now as inevitably there will be job losses due to covid-19.

“For too long, governments focused on university being the best route up when we all know that a degree isn’t for everybody. It wasn’t for me and I want to spread the word there are other options.”